At a meeting of the Fort Smith Port Authority Thursday (Oct. 17), Ports of Fort Smith and Van Buren operator Marty Shell updated authority members on an application for grant money to build a new storage building at the Fort Smith port. This would be the first new building at the port since 1980, he said.
Shell, also the owner of Five Rivers Distribution in Van Buren, said he and Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, would be traveling to Little Rock Nov. 6 to make an in-person appeal for the more than $200,000 in grant monies up for grabs from the Arkansas Waterways Commission.
The Fort Smith port is competing against Camden, Osceola, and Pine Bluff for the funds.
"Worst case scenario we come back with zero," Shell said. "Best case scenario, we come back with the full amount."
He said he does not expect the grant to be split between the cities, but he could not rule out such a result.
If the money is granted, Shell said it would need to be spent in a year. During that year, Shell said the port would approach other outside groups for additional funding to complete the project, which he said would cost well more than the $200,000 grant.
Since Shell took over operations of the Fort Smith port in 2008, freight tonnage has increased from 32,000 tons per year to more than 100,000 tons, he said.
"We need this money to continue operations if we want to generate revenues for the city and the public," he said. "If we want to create jobs in the area, we need this to be able to do that."